All posts in “Packaging”

BoxLock secures your booty against porch pirates

This clever – if expensive – product is called the BoxLock and it is a keyless padlock that lets your package delivery person scan and drop off your packages into a locked box. The system essentially watches for a shipping event and then waits for the right barcode before opening. Once the delivery person scans the package, the lock opens, the delivery person sticks the package in a box or shed (not included) and locks it back up. You then go and grab your package at your leisure.

The lock costs $129.

The company appeared on everyone’s favorite show, Shark Tank, where they demonstrated the system with a fake door and fake UPS dude.

The internal battery lasts 30 days on one charge and it connects to your phone and house via Wi-Fi. While the system does require a box – it’s called BoxLock, after all, not LockBox – it’s a clever solution to those pesky porch pirates who endlessly steal my YorkieLoversBox deliveries.

Meet Lumi, the Los Angeles startup that just raised $9 million for a packaging business


It’s not every chief executive who wakes up in the morning to a view of their office door across the parking lot from the Airstream trailer they call home, but Jesse Genet isn’t every CEO.

Genet is the co-founder and chief executive of Lumi, a Los Angeles-based startup that supplies the packaging for some of the top e-commerce companies that have launched with direct-to-consumer businesses. If you, gentle reader, have ever received a box from FabFitFun, BarkBox, MeUndies or Parachute Home, then you’ve touched some of Genet’s products.

Alongside co-founder and longtime partner Stephan Ango, Genet has built a business with Lumi that’s already been profitable, and has just raised $9 million in venture funding to boost its growth.

Genet has built a business on improving the efficiency and aesthetics of some of venture capital’s best-known retail businesses, and living close to the office in an Airstream just fits with that philosophy. As does her office position, up front in an open desk by the company’s front door.

The pickup-truck-driving Detroit-born entrepreneur first began thinking about the packaging business with her partner, Ango, while they were working on their first business together — selling a sunlight-activated fabric dye called Inkodye.

A lot of what we learned was related to making custom packaging,” says Genet. “Stefan and I spent four and a half years launching a product that needed it’s own packaging… We learned a lot of the pain points that our customers experience [now]. We were living them for four and a half years running that first company.”

In fact, it was about year three years into the Inkodye business that the two launched Lumi — and from the beginning, Genet and Ango knew that it would be their main project going forward.

Lumi co-founders Stephan Ango and Jesse Genet

Genet and Ango both believe that when companies these days launch products, they should focus on what makes them unique — be that swimwear, underwear, candy or curating boxes of makeups and soaps or dog toys — they shouldn’t have to worry about the logistics of packaging.

Like many industries, Genet and Ango are moving packaging toward a services model, transforming it from something that either retailers had to own to manage the experience or they left in the hands of shipping companies that didn’t optimize for a good customer experience.

As Ango wrote in his blog post announcing the company’s funding:

The magic behind Lumi is networked manufacturing, i.e. bringing factories online. Instead of managing communications with individual suppliers for each item, the Lumi Dashboard centralizes this process. Each item is abstracted into specifications and the best factory for each job is picked based on criteria for cost, quality and lead time. Our extensive network of factories allows us to locate manufacturing within 50 miles of almost any distribution center in the United States. If fulfillment moves to a different part of the country, production can be quickly re-located near the new distribution center.

Lumi’s service provides a dashboard to manage custom-printed boxes, tape, packing slips — anything that a retail business might need to ship its goods to its customers.

The company, which is always on the lips of Los Angeles investors as one of the strongest in the city’s current crop of startups, was able to attract top-tier investors to back its growth.

Its new $9 million financing was led by Spark Capital, alongside the premier retail-focused investment firm, Forerunner Ventures (which has racked up billion-dollar exits in both Dollar Shave Club and Jet.com, along with a host of e-commerce companies like Birchbox, Bonobos, Glossier, Hotel Tonight, Warby Parker and Outdoor Voices). Previous investors Homebrew Ventures also participated. Homebrew, Lowercase Ventures and Ludlow Ventures provided seed funding for the company.

“Lumi helps e-commerce companies produce custom packaging by bringing simplicity to something that is very complex: what machine in what factory in what part of the world would be best to make this box, the wrapping, marketing inserts, etc.?,” wrote Spark Capital general partner Kevin Thau in a blog post explaining his firm’s investment.

Some examples of Lumi’s packaging

Some of the new money will be used to set up a prototyping lab in Los Angeles, as well as to invest further in software development at the 30-person company.

For a company that started out as a toolkit for creators to customize anything, the journey deep into the heart of how to make and outsource packaging for online retailers has been a long — if not strange — trip.

“We were talking about how companies brand themselves and source things to brand themselves,” says Genet. “We landed on packaging not because ‘Whoa, you know where a huge market is’ but because our customers were dealing with this struggle.”

So far the company has launched 18,000 projects and shipped 25 million units of packaging items.

“We have much bigger customers who are ordering tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands units of things,” Ango tells me.

Here are some examples of Lumi’s handiwork.

And for a company that spends its time making packaging, Lumi’s founders are also thinking pretty deeply on how to make packaging more sustainable.

Lumi focuses on what Genet calls “sustainability by default.” The company geolocates its production to be as close as possible to an e-commerce company’s distribution center.

Simply by doing that, the company makes the process many hundreds of times more sustainable. “When they onboard with Lumi and we’re making their boxes 30 miles away… you’ve reduced thousands and thousands of transit miles,” Genet says, which dramatically reduces emissions and fuel consumption.

Ultimately, Lumi  wants to make managing packaging at an e-commerce company easier and more sustainable… services most online retailers are is hoping they can deliver.

Why AirPods will eventually come free with every iPhone

iPhone 2020 will bring on the AirPods.
iPhone 2020 will bring on the AirPods.

Image: bob al-greene/mashable

The iPhone of the future may or may not look much like its predecessors, but at some point in the next few years it’s almost a sure bet that Apple is going to get rid of the Lightning port. The industry’s move toward wireless charging is clear, and by killing the headphone jack, Apple clearly has no love for any particular connector, even its own.

There’s a clear consequence of dropping all ports, though, and it begs the question: What will Apple do about the headphones? Today, it packages Lightning EarPods in the box along with a dongle for traditional headphones. But any cellphone needs to come with a hands-free way of taking calls, and without a port, the answer is clear: go wireless.

All of which leads to the inevitable conclusion that Apple will someday pack its wireless AirPods in the box with the iPhone.

Before you get too excited, remember the emphasis is on someday. For our recent project that imagines the iPhone of the future, we predicted Apple would do this by 2020, but it could be earlier or sooner. Just as EarPods took over for the older white Apple earbuds that came with every iPhone, AirPods will eventually take on that role.

AirPods are currently an optional accessory, but there’s precedent for smartphone makers packing higher-end headphones in the box. Samsung just upped the ante with the Galaxy S8 and its standard AKG by Harman earphones, so Apple adding some extra oomph to its default audio offerings is more warranted than ever.

AirPods will come in the box -- but they won't be the best Apple has to offer in 2020.

AirPods will come in the box — but they won’t be the best Apple has to offer in 2020.

Image: dustin drankoski/mashable

There’s already a rumor that the iPhone 8 will come in a bundle package with AirPods — but why would Apple give up the sales of its newest best-selling, much loved product to one-up a competitor?

“Bundling iPhone 8 with AirPods could potentially raise the average selling price of an iPhone box in a retail store by around 20 percent, which would please Wall Street investors,” Neil Mawston, an Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, told us in an email. “Selling, say, a $750 iPhone with a $150 pair of AirPods could bring Apple a nice bump in revenue and profit. However, it remains to be seen whether Apple fans would warm to yet another spike in price for an iPhone and it may hit demand.”

There’s another option: Use the Beats brand. That’s possible, but we’re not going to hold our breath on that one. Apple has never mixed up its branding, and its move to give the AirPods and the Beats X wireless headphones its W1 chip, rather than propping up one as the premium product, is more proof that the two branches of business will stay separate.

Mawston agrees. “Never say never, but the Beats headphone brand is widely perceived as less premium than Apple, so bundling an iPhone with a Beats headsets in a single mass-market package would be a risky move.”

Instead, Apple is more likely to create an entry-level set of wireless EarPods, which, if it happens by 2020, could just be today’s AirPods — AirPods “1.0.”

That means the AirPod line will have even more features to make it a premium product worth the purchase. Those features would likely come in the form of biometric sensors and better Siri integration, like we’re already seeing from the likes of Vi and Bragi. The buds could even take the sound public, with a patent design to turn headphones into speakers.

And what if, by the time Apple’s wireless future rolls around, you’re still using older headphones that connect via a 3.5mm jack? I’m sure there’ll be some sort of dongle.

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